Just for Me . . . Can I Do That?!

I was having a conversation with myself earlier today.  Don’t laugh.  I’m not the only person that talks to herself.  Others have told me they do it too.  Now, if you want to question our sanity, that is an altogether different topic of discussion!  But I digress.

The most recent conversation went something like this –

Me – Excuse me, self?

Self – Yes.

Me – Ya’ wanna know what I miss most from my “growing up” years?

Self – What?

Me – Piano lessons and practicing.

Self – *disbelieving pause* Come again?!

Me – Yeah.  I miss having weekly lessons and having someone – or a couple of someone’s – holding me accountable for practicing during the week.

Self – But there were SEVERAL occasions during the earlier years when we would throw a bit of a fit when it came to practice.

Me – Well . . . yeah.  But in middle school and high school?  We actually liked it then!

Self – True.  It was fun to conquer a really hard piece and see the progress.

Me – Oh!  And remember Senior year?!  Worked ALONE to get a piece ready for Solo and Ensemble and actually got a Division I rating?!

Self – I’ll never forget that!  That Mozart piece was still a personal favorite.

Me – I know, right?!

Self – So why did we stop practicing like that?  We’re a responsible adult now, we could set our own practice expectations.  Why don’t we.

Me – It’s selfish.

Self – *pause* Huh?!

Me – It’s selfish.  There is a family to take care of and work responsibilities.  I mean, we still have rehearsing we have to do for the choral accompanist gigs and the music theater jobs.

Self – But it’s not the same.

Me – *sigh* No.  It’s not even close.

Self – I still don’t get the selfish part.

Me – I’m a wife. A parent. I have responsibilities.  The kind of songs I would want to learn would mean longer practice sessions and that feels like I’m cheating others out of my time or cheating on my responsibilities.

Self – *pause of disbelief* Are you kidding me?

Me – What?

Self – That’s nonsense!  You are an individual with a unique identity that existed before your roles as wife, mother, employee, volunteer, etc.  There is nothing selfish about making sure you don’t stagnate; that your identity continues to exist!

Me – Well, when you put it that way . . . 

Self – So what piece are you going to assign yourself?

Me – Huh?

Self – Now that we have that silly “it’s selfish” nonsense dealt with, what piece are you going to set aside time to learn?

Me – I won’t have anywhere to perform it.

Self – So what?!  Is the purpose a performance or feeding your heart?!  

Me – *feeling a little ashamed* Feeding my heart

Self – Okay.  So I’m asking you again – what piece are you going to start working on.

Me – Well, I haven’t finished learning Moonlight Sonata.  And I still have a copy of Clair de Lune, and I’ve always wanted to . . .

Self – Now you’re talking.

I think you get the point.  This is for me.  The me that existed before wedding vows and nine months of waiting added pieces to my identity that I prize beyond words  The me that has found solace, comfort, consolation, and joy by simply coaxing notes and rhythms from 88 black and white keys.  The piano has always been my favorite instrument and sometimes even felt like a best friend!  In recent years, I’ve restricted my rehearsal moments to those that would benefit others only.  But that’s done.  I have some pieces at home that I have not yet learned to play all the way through and that will be changing.  Soon.  No one else may ever hear them performed but that is SOOOOOO not the point.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have some music to go look through!



It’s amazing what happens when you begin to embrace your gifts and how they help to define your identity.  It helps you say “yes” joyfully and “no” without guilt.

Let me explain – over the last few months, I’ve walked through a personal refining process where I have VERY clearly seen what is it I’m designed to do.  I’ve gotten a better grasp on what drives me than ever before.  It has allowed me to resign a position that completely misses the mark with a complete sense of peace.  Truthfully, it wasn’t that hard to do.  Working a job that completely misses that target as far as talent and passion go?  Really doesn’t build much into your life so it’s not terribly hard to walk away.  But I don’t regret the time because I learned things.  Lots of things.  About myself, about what matters to me, about what I want my energy and time to focus on.

Then I heard of a job opening in a field that I am qualified for.  The problem?  It’s a field that I have chosen to turn my focus from.  In other words, it’s not something I want to do with my life anymore.  In the past, I would have felt obligated to apply.  If I’m trained for the job and it’s available, I should want it, right?  Nope.  Not even a little bit.  That fact has often been true.  I applied because I felt I was supposed to, not because I wanted to.

Not this time.  This time I looked at the possibility and asked – “Does it line up with my passion?  Is it a part of what matters most to me?”  When the answer was no, then the decision was made.

My only regret is that it took me until the age of 45 to get to this place.  But at least I got here.

My Hero!

My hubby is kind of my hero right at this moment.  I mean, he does little heroic things for me all the time and can be quite the Prince Charming!  But there is a very specific incident from today that has me admiring him quite a bit.

We are both in our mid-40’s – he is nine months older than I am . . . but I digress!  At this stage in life, it’s easy to settle into a rut.  A routine!  Settle into a routine.  Not a rut.  Because ruts are boring and . . . where was I?!  Oh yeah.  My “stage in life.”

Let’s be honest, the older we get the harder it is to motivate ourselves to try new things.  We don’t want to look foolish.  When you are young and try a new hobby, people excuse the foolishness because you are young.  Being young and foolish is acceptable.  Being middle-aged and foolish?!  Not so much.

In high school my hubby was a year-round athlete.  I was a performing arts geek.  Apart from a few months of piano lessons as a kid, he never dabbled in the performance realm and I ran exactly one year of track and was over the sports thing for good.

But today hubby did something that I never – and I mean NEVER EVER – thought he would do.  He tried out for a play.  Yes, you read that right.  He went down to the local community theater and auditioned!  The Hawkeye Community Theater is doing “A Few Good Men” in June and hubby LOVES that movie so he thought it might be fun to give this acting thing a shot.

There is still one more night of auditions yet so the cast list is still a few days out.  But I could NOT be prouder of any human being than I am of him.  Talk about taking a step outside your comfort zone!

Now, in all fairness, he was all but committed to audition but just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger for some reason.  I asked him why he thought he might be hesitating.  It basically came down to “I’ve never done this before” thing so I made him a deal – if he would take a deep breath and try something new . . . so would I.

For years he has tried to convince me to learn to golf.  He loves to golf and would LOVE for us to be able to do it together.  The sweet thing is he actually thinks I am capable of learning!  I’m afraid I’m going to hurt someone but that’s an issue for another time.  I promised him that if he would take a chance and step outside his comfort zone then I would to.  He auditioned which means he gets to teach me (or TRY to teach me) how to golf.

Regardless of what caused that final push, the fact that he even considered stepping into something new, something that was a bit of a leap outside his comfort zone, is one of most heroic, admirable things I think I’ve ever seen anyone do!  And he’s all mine!


What's Yours?

Webster’s dictionary defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something”.  In our world, we sometimes become so focused on the “reward” for what we do that we forget to listen to our passion much less tap into or pursue it.  We get focused on the final grade, the recognition, or the paycheck attached to what we do.  Somewhere in all of that “focusing on the end result” we lose sight of something that matters just as much – passion.

IMG_20140124_073351_767My eldest child can tell you just about anything you want to know about the Tudors.  She can list all of the wives of King Henry the VIII and tell you who their children were, how they died, etc. I mean, she even bought one of those “coffee table books” (pictured to the left) on the subject and has read it cover to cover.  I mean, most people buy those and put them on a coffee table as a decoration!  When she gets interested in something and wants to know more she doesn’t waste time.  Lately, she became interested in learning the whole story behind “The Manson Family” so she headed to the library and checked out “Helter Skelter” (well-written book, I recommend it!).  As a mom, I love watching her chase learning just because she wants to.  Her passion kicks in, and you cannot stop her from learning.  She buries herself in books or movies and won’t stop till she’s satisfied she knows as much as she can learn.


With hubby, it’s golf and woodworking.  He spends time on Youtube watching “how-to” videos when planning his latest wood working projects.  If it isn’t woodworking videos, it’s golf tutorials.  The weird little tool on the desk in the picture to the right is apparently something to help improve his swing.  I don’t golf so I don’t understand how it works.  Whether it’s a new woodworking project or trying to improve his golf game, hubby isn’t satisfied with “good enough.”  He loves putting in the time to improve his skill with power tools or his score on the golf course.  I’m pretty sure the guys in his golf league appreciate his hard work too!

IMG_20140221_204710_438For me, it’s the theater.  Directing, music directing, acting, . . . whatever it is, I LOVE being in the theater.  I have some cherished memories of shows I’ve directed – a couple of favorites that jump immediately to mind – but each time I get a chance to direct another show, I work to improve the last experience by preparing well ahead, carefully organizing my rehearsal plans, continuing to “tweak” my procedures, etc.  Leave me alone with a new script and a blank legal pad, let me get to work planning the staging and blocking, and I am in my happy place! I am very proud of the shows I have directed in the past, but I know I can always be a better director.  As an actress and pit musician I get chances to watch other directors and I learn from what they do with their shows, borrowing their best ideas and strategies and tweaking those that have potential but don’t quite match my style personally.

Why do I share these seemingly random hobbies with you?  Because they all have one big thing in common – passion.  Not a paycheck. Not the ability to become famous. Not the chance to change the world.  Just the chance to improve our knowledge or increase our skill level at something.  I can say this with confidence – none of us regret the time we’ve invested.  Not even a little bit.  Feeding the passion we have is enough of a reward.  Nothing more is needed.

Growing Pains of a Different Sort

I remember having to explain to my kids what growing pains were.  One of them looked at me and said, “You mean growing hurts?!  Well, that sucks.”

Yep, kiddo it does.

Because all kinds of growth hurts.  Emotional growth, relational growth, spiritual growth – none of it happens without the ache of stretching into something new.

I wish it could be painless.  I wish that letting go of past hurts – after learning important lessons – didn’t have to hurt.  I wish learning to open up to others and trust them with the deepest parts of us didn’t come with risk.  I wish that facing our past, admitting that it happened, and moving on was easy.

But it hurts.  And it does, indeed, “suck”.

There is, however, an upside.

I mean, remember how much fun it was when you realized you were taller than a parent or a sibling?  Or how weird it is to look back at pictures of yourself when you were super little?

There is an upside.  You will be stronger once admit to and deal with the pain.  You will be more compassionate when you admit that you have been hurt but refuse to wallow in it.  You will be able to interact positively with certain people once you release feelings of bitterness and anger, knowing that they will never change (or admit they need too!)

If you can deal with the growing pains and whatever issue they are related to, you will be a person who is more mature, more confident, more fun to be around, and more capable of healthy relationships.

Physical growth hurts because our bodies are stretching to new heights.  Emotional growth hurts for much the same reason.  It does indeed “suck” but the payoff is worth it!

Easier Said Than Done

The Sunday School class I am in has been using the Philip Yancy book “What’s So Amazing About Grace” as our discussion/lesson guide.  While I love Yancy’s writing direct, no-punches-pulled writing style, his subject matter is tough to deal with.

Grace goes against our human nature.  When we are wronged, everything in us screams for justice.  We want the offender to pay and pay big!  But when we offend or hurt another, we desperately seek compassion, understanding and justice.  For me, the “secret” is a matter of perspective.

Disclaimer – there are times when others hurt us so often and so severely that we must make the wise choice to set boundaries with that particular person.  But this isn’t about those moments.

I can be thoughtless and uncaring.  My reasons for those behaviors may be valid – tired, sick, overworked, stressed from the demands of work or others, etc.  and I sincerely want others to be understanding and gracious with me when I’m having one of “those” days.

But what is my first assumption when someone else treats me in a thoughtless, uncaring manner? Do I assume that they are simply having a bad day and extend them the understanding and grace I want in those moments?  I wish I could say an adamant yes.  I wish I could tell you that I’m the walking definition of compassion.  Truth is, I tend to take it personally.  I don’t want to be understanding or caring.  I want to make them pay.

My goal is a simple one – to give others the benefit of the doubt, to learn the skill of taking a deep breath and extending grace.  It’s not going to be easy and I’m not even really sure what that looks like but I’m going to work on it!


“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.”  James 1:23-25

I’ve been dealing with a petulant child lately.  Nothing extreme, no big melt downs.  Just a perpetual pout and the occasional stomping of a foot.

Before I confuse too many people, I am not referring to any of my own children.  In fact, I’m not referring to an actual child at all!  I’m referring to my “inner toddler”.  

I’m being stretched in some fantastic ways lately.  Getting a chance to read through The Respect Dare by Nina Roesner has been such a powerful experience for me.  The reading of each chapter goes so quickly and the dares look deceptively simple since they are handful of questions to answer or a set of seemingly simple instructions to write down a few sentences or statements.  When I sit down to actually carry out the dares, I discover that they are digging deeply into who I am and the “baggage” (both good and bad) that I brought in to my marriage.

But then it happens.  That little girl inside me sticks out her lower lip and says, “I don’t wanna.”  Let me make something very clear.  This is not about the book directly.  It’s more about my attitude.  See, I want an escape clause.  I know that scripture tells me to respect my husband and the implication is that I am to do so unconditionally.  But there is a selfish part of me – larger than I would like to admit – that wants an out.  I want a deadline – “If he isn’t a better husband by  ___________________, the spouse is no longer obligated to . . . ” You get the idea.

We are an instant gratification society. But marriage doesn’t instantly work perfectly; it doesn’t instantly make the two in the relationship happy.  Most of us would be happy if it just consistently got better day after day!  

There I was, implementing my dares, trying to do the right thing.  My prayer life is far more active than ever before (part of a recent dare!) and the growth and learning I’ve already gleaned from the book keeps running through my head.  But that doesn’t mean the aforementioned toddler is behaving herself!

Earlier today, we were discussing finances (Christmas shopping has begun and we have a budget that we need to watch carefully).  My inner toddler started whining – “He doesn’t trust me.”  “He’s being mean and telling me I’m stupid.”  I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t trust myself to speak.  Hubby noticed and asked why I was so quiet.  I was honest and said that discussing finances with him makes me nervous because it has been a hot button topic for us in the past.  He assured me that he was simply trying to think through what we had already purchased and what we still needed to purchase and that he was in no way trying to be negative.  And that’s where it ended.  Not a great victory, I know, but we didn’t get into a knock-down, drag-out fight so I’ll take it.

After running errands/doing a little more shopping and using an early Christmas gift of cash to purchase a fast food supper we were relaxing at home when all of a sudden hubby looked at me and said, “I’m really proud of how creatively you’ve stretched the budget and at how diligently you’ve been tracking your purchases and staying well-within the budget.”  Wow.  It ain’t moonlight and roses but it isn’t typical for us either!  It’s a little victory and a baby step in a new direction.  I’ll take it!